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DeGruson Map; Topeka, Girard and Pittsburg, Kansas
Gene DeGruson photo

Gene DeGruson

Goat's House cover

Image of inscription by Gene DeGruson to Tom Averill and Jeff Goudie in their copy of Goat's House

cover image of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, introduction by Gene DeGruson

image of inscription by Gene DeGruson to Tom Averill in his copy of The Jungle

cover of Guide to Special Collections in Kansas edited by Gene DeGruson

Porter Library Bulletin cover 1972


Eugene H. DeGruson was born Oct. 10, 1932 in Girard, Kansas, The son of a coal miner, he lived with his parents in Camp 50, a community built by the Central Coal & Coke Company Mine. After graduating from Crawford County High School, he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pittsburg State University and did post-graduate study at Iowa State University.

He taught for several years at Highland Park High School in Topeka, before accepting a position in 1960 as an instructor in the English Department at Pittsburg State University. He moved to the Porter Library staff in 1968 and took responsibility for the library’s special collections.

Gene immersed himself in the literary, cultural and ethnic history of southeast Kansas, an area known as the Little Balkans, because of its diversity. The coal mines in this area attracted immigrants from all over Europe and many of the cultures have survived and thrived.

Gene Degruson died in 1997.

Bibliography (- housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  

Goat's House is a book of narrative poems, many based on Gene's memories of growing up in mining camps in southeast Kansas. Some of his poems are from stories of older people he knew, and some poems are descriptions of southeast Kansas places and people.

The Lost First Edition of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle Gene DeGruson wrote the introduction, which includes the story of how the Pittsburg State University Special Collections came to receive a truckload of moldy, disintegrating papers found in a cellar at a farm in Girard, Kansas. Upton Sinclair's name was on several pieces of correspondence with the once prominent Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason which was based in Girard, Kansas. Upon further investigation, Gene discovered that The Jungle was published serially in this publication. When the novel was published commercially it was shortened and emended, so Gene did the research and editing to reissue this "unexpurgated edition."

Little Balkans Review: A Southeast Kansas Literary and Graphics Quarterly was founded by Gene DeGruson in 1980. Primary consideration was given to works by Kansans and former Kansans, as well as work set in the Little Balkans as southeast Kansas is often called. He served as poetry editor until his death in 1997.

A Guide to Special Collections in Kansas was a collaboration with other archivists and librarians written in 1986, which detailed unique collections not usually included in library catalogs. Gene helped compile and edit the section that lists collections in public libraries, museums, historical societies, and other organizations. The guide also included contact information, hours and use policies which was very helpful in the days before the internet.

Porter Library Bulletin/Library Bulletin, published by Pittsburg State University Library, was edited by Gene DeGruson from1968-1974.

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Writing Samples


---from Goat's House
-for Eva Jessye

So many women did not want to come here,
including my grandmother, who loved France.
It was stark then, the landscape, without trees,
smogged by smelters which promoters called
prosperity. Although timid, she stubbornly
resisted the language until refusal became habit.

Thus there was always a translator present
when she talked to those of us born in the new country.
You could tell from her eyes that something was lost,
but we impatiently hurried off to play
when her questions or comments didn't make sense,
irrelevant, like going to the goat's house for wool.

On her deathbed she gave me things and crooned
their mysteries in a secret tongue I could not share:
a Tricolored ribbon, a centime piece, a celluloid
doll that drank from a bottle with a long, long
tube which ran to the nipple: strange gifts
for a child who did not know why she gave.

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Critical Essay by Robert Lawson

No one could be more the product of Southeast Kansas than Eugene Henry DeGruson is as a poet of Southeast Kansas that I would like to emphasize his achievement.  In 1986, Gene won the first Robert E. Gross Memorial manuscript competition sponsored by the Woodley Press, at Washburn University in Topeka, with a book of poems.  That volume, Goat's House, is a special tour of one man's memories, of the stories he heard growing up and the people he grew up among, captured by the imagination of a writer who recreated their idiom, their humor, their sorrow and hard times, their joys, their eccentricities. Read more

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PSU Axe Library Gene DeGruson Collection

Newspaper articles and obituaries

Funeral Service and Memorials

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